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Friendly Fire

It still takes me by surprise each year: the sudden onset of the hot, hot season in the Southwest. I’m not always good about it. I complain, get irritable, take a little too long to remember: it’s actually a very beautiful thing that nature retains this much power. As much as human beings have fought to control and overpower the earth, there is something undeniable about a desert summer. It wins, as well it should.

According to many systems of ancient wisdom, including Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, the elements of nature are always acting in, on and through us. The fire element that predominates at this time of year shows up in numerous ways. Emotionally, we may find ourselves reacting more quickly to situations not to our liking, with an anger or frustration that may seem to rise up out of nowhere. Physically, we may tend toward disrupted sleep, headaches, or heartburn. All of these are signs that the fire element is in need of some balancing.

Earth and Water

In Ayurveda, the fire element is tamed by earth and water—the elements that remind us to stay grounded, fluid, and flexible with what life hands us. A slower yoga practice with lots of hip-openers, forward bends and cooling pranayama may do the trick; taking a cool bath with lavender oil; drinking lots of water with cucumber and lime; regular meditation. All of these are wonderful practices to emphasize at this time of the year.

But what about the times when yoga practice isn’t possible? When you can’t escape to the bath? When you forgot to buy the damn cucumbers? What if you’re in the midst of an argument with a family member or a co-worker and you’re afraid you’re going to let all that fire loose in a way you might regret?

Mindfulness

In those heated moments, I’ve found a very useful refuge in the practice of mindfulness, just naming what I’m feeling and observing. Sometimes it’s best to shift my attention to something I can feel: my feet touching the ground, or the movement of my breath. From there it can be possible to state (whether to myself or out loud) what is present: a disappointment, a frustration, a disagreement. Just naming it—“oh, this is anger I’m feeling”—makes it less personal. Just a thing that human beings experience. Not necessarily mine to hold onto.

This process of feeling-and-naming is often enough to cool the fire to the point where the more positive aspects of the element can come into our grasp. The fire element, when well-balanced and burning cleanly, is also the domain of illumination, creativity, and passion–the stuff that makes being alive and human feel exciting and full of potential.

We look forward to sharing the grounding, calming, creativity-inspiring aspects of yoga practice with you at the studio this month. Stay cool!

Much love and thanks for reading,

Erin H/Grassroots Yoga